tv Studio 1.0 Bloomberg January 19, 2015 9:30am-10:01am EST
>> he has been called the king of techtopia. peter thiel is one of silicon valley's most audacious and contrarian investors. he made his name founding paypal and funding facebook. he is now is backing rocket ships, dna manipulation, meat grown in labs, and a start-up island off the coast. he has paid kids to skip college and start companies instead, in hopes of building a better future, faster. and building flying cars along the way. joining me is the bold and controversial venture capitalist and now the author of a new book, "zero to one," peter thiel.
>> thank you. >> "zero to one," what does that mean? >> it means doing something new. going to the first typewriter, the first word processor, the first car, the first airplane. doing something that has never been done before. if we are going to take our civilization to the next level, it will require new things. to invent new things. >> what companies have taken us from zero to one? >> facebook with social networking. google in search. >> yet, you argue for the last few decades, we have been in a tech slowdown. have facebook and apple and google not been innovative enough? >> as a society, i would argue we have not done as much as we could have. you have had less innovations in energy and biotechnology, and not as many as we would like, transportation, it is not moving any faster. >> one thing you would learn
from entrepreneurs is don't copy mark zuckerberg and bill gates, why not? >> the next mark zuckerberg won't be starting a social networking site. the next bill gates won't be starting an operating system, and so in some sense you cannot copy them because they did not copy somebody else. >> you also suggest that they come up with one very important truth that very few people agree with you on. why is finding something nobody agrees with you on the best way to get somebody to believe in you? >> i think great companies have a sense of mission. they have a sense of where a good investor has a patent and has good technology, and that is the best kind of investment to have. >> you say google is a monopoly? >> it is. they do not talk about the 98% of revenue that comes from search, which is where they have a monopoly. they focus on all these other areas. ebay has a monopoly in the
auction space. amazon has a monopoly of scale. >> is facebook a monopoly? >> i would argue it is not as robust a monopoly as google, because there are other places that pop up in the social networking space every year, you see a twitter or snapchat. all these companies emerge on a continual basis. >> do you think they could ever become too powerful that they would stifle innovation? >> i tend to think this has not happened a lot in the technology area, because there has been enough innovation to keep things flowing. >> do you think someday google, facebook, amazon, will not be as dominant as they are? >> i think they will be dominant for a while, but i don't think they will be dominant forever. >> do you see one or the other becoming dominant? >> it is always difficult to judge this, but if i had to pick one, i do tend to think of google as the one that is on an incredible arc at this point. >> why?
>> the core search monopoly is powerful. they are trying to extend it into all these other areas. >> their monopoly is exploring so many different things, robotics, google glass, self-driving cars. what kind of project are you most excited about? >> i think self-driving cars is going to change transportation maybe as much as much as the development of the car itself. >> you compare compelling startups to cults, should they be like cults? >> they should not be like cults but there is always an intense understanding that something is true that very few other people do. my friend, elon musk, believes that he has a unique set of ideas to motivate people there.
it is not a cult and that it is a wrong believe but it is unusual and a unique set of ideas that motivate. >> something else you say is that a messed up startup cannot be fixed. why not? >> foundations are important. if you get some of the first things wrong, it is extremely hard to recover. >> i am guessing you do not think yahoo!, hp can be fixed? >> i would argue that hp and yahoo! are not really technology companies at all. they were technology companies in the 1970's and 1980's with hp, and in the 1990's with yahoo! these were technology companies, now they are against technology.
>> even though they are not technology companies, can yahoo! and hp be fixed? >> there are things we can do to streamline them. it is a mistake for them to radically try to reinvent themselves and become technology companies once again. >> you mention marissa mayer, what do you think her chances are of turning things around? >> she is by far the best ceo it has had in a decade. she should not be evaluated on whether she invents something new. that is setting her up for failure. the existing businesses are big, and if you can improve those and make those work, that is fantastic. >> other than what you have written in this book, what are some things you believe that very few people agree with you on?
>> an issue i have spoken about is this idea that college education has become something of a bubble. a trillion dollars of student debt is not getting what we are paying for. it needs to be rethought in a fundamental way. >> if you could start education over again, what would you do? >> get rid of the word education. >> would there be no schools? >> they would be very different. they are stuck in the 19th century. you figure out ways to make them individuated, where different students learn at their own pace. >> you have the thiel fellowship. you give aspiring entrepreneurs money to not go to school. some of those entrepreneurs have gone back to school. why do you think that is? >> most of them have not. it was designed as a two-year program in which people could take a break from college. i think they have found it to be an incredible learning experience. i went to stanford and law school. i might do that again. >> would you do it over? >> i would ask a lot more tough questions.
>> would you be where you are if you did not go to stanford. >> you can never run these experiments twice. having met a lot of people there was valuable. had i gone to any other university, that may have discouraged me from going into tech. >> what else would you may want to do? >> i would be tempted to be a teacher. i am not against learning, i am against education. >> of the six people who built paypal, four of them built bombs in high school. >> i was not one of them. [laughter] ♪
>> the myth is that they are somehow singular and that they are somehow divine, omnipotent beings. these things that i am doing are not solo efforts. i have friends that i talked to a lot and people i talk to closely. >> i am curious about your background, and what shaped you along the way. i know that you were born in germany and moved around a lot, you went to south africa and namibia. >> i went to seven different elementary schools as a kid, and so i felt a little bit like an outsider instead of an insider. so there is kind of a combination of outsider-insider perspective that shaped me a lot. >> what were your parents like? >> my dad was an engineer. my mom was a homemaker. they were focused on education. >> you were raised an evangelical christian and did not believe in anything like evolution? >> i still consider myself a christian and i think it is
important to have a very different perspective on things, because it pushes you to either defend your ideas really well or to have a much deeper understanding of why they are wrong. >> on paper you worked in a new york law firm and you worked on wall street. it sounds pretty standard. where is the renegade in you? >> >> there was a sense that i could not see myself as being happy doing this. >> was there any event in life that triggered you to start down a different path? >> it was a bit of an evolution. i can point to late nights at the law firm where i was asking myself, what am i doing here? >> who do you call for what? >> there is something about a set of my friends from paypal, there is an intense experience and i think those bonds will never quite be matched in their intensity. >> in your book, the first line
in chapter 14 is, "of the six people who founded paypal, four of them built bombs in high school." >> i was not one of those four. [laughter] i think there is something that is quite extreme about personalities of going to starting up a company. having extreme personalities is a somewhat good thing. >> who built the bombs? it wasn't you? >> i can't say. >> as successful as so many members of the paypal mafia have been, you have also had failure. why? >> it was a failure and that we did not achieve our original vision of a completely new currency system. >> what about bitcoin, does that get closer to what you imagine? >> i am psychologically biased against it. i would be tempted to come up with reasons why nobody would succeed at it.
>> chances of it succeeding are unlikely? >> i think it is slightly too cumbersome to work as a new payment system. >> you were the first outside investor in in facebook. did you convince mark or did he convince you? >> some combination of both. the company was growing fast. i convinced them i would be relatively hands-off. >> do you worry facebook to get -- facebook could get distracted? >> it is always a challenge. you have to do new things, because you are not in a static world, and you don't want to do too many. you want to do the right number of things. >> you created palantir. customers include the cia and the air force, yet there is so much mystery around it. as i understand, palantir is using data on a massive scale to solve problems from disease to terrorism.
>> it is always an interactive problem. part of the data can be processed by computers. parts of that data can be analyzed by humans. one reporter who looked into it said it had been used in the bin laden raid and was critical connecting all the dots. >> do you think you could stop the next 9/11, or has it already? >> i don't think we are going to do it by projecting military force throughout the world, i think we will do it by sort of very cleverly uncovering these conspiracies before they come together. >> some have expressed concern that your clients could actually use palantir to do evil things? do you worry about that? >> there is always a two edged part to these technologies. there is always a question of how they can be used or abused. i think there are a lot of checks in place.
>> someone described it as plugging into the matrix. >> one government agency that gave us a bunch of data, we uncovered a terrorist plot they had not suspected. this led them to conclude they had to reclassify data as classified. >> would you say it has helped thwart multiple terrorist plots? >> i suspect that is true. >> what is the craziest sector that you might enter that we would not expect? >> one that we started to look at the margins that is wildly out of fashion is the nuclear power industry. is it possible to build safer, cheaper, better reactors with all of these new technologies? and when you look at the technologies, it looks like the answer is definitely yes. i am very worried about the regulatory issues with it. but i think it is worth tackling that some more. >> i want to talk more about your vision of the future and
man versus machine. you are not concerned that computers are going to take our jobs? >> not anytime soon. i think technology has freed people up to do other things. >> at some point though, you said in the 22nd century, computers could be smarter than us. >> there is always an interesting sort of debate and how will that change things? i don't think that will happen for a long time, but i think our primary questions are not economic but political and cultural problems, i think it is like having extraterrestrial landing on the planet. if we had aliens landing on this planet, we would not ask the first question, what does this mean for my job. we would ask, are they friendly or not friendly. >> have you pondered about how humans could potentially survive in the future?
>> we should give nuclear power very serious consideration, it does not create greenhouse gases. >> is mars going to be first? >> there are a lot of things that make mars natural, yes. >> you ponder several other different futures, including human extinction. what are the possibilities about that? >> what are the technologies we need to develop? we need to stay focused on that and i think our prospects are very good. >> you have a startup island off the coast. what is your vision there? >> this is a very small-sized project. is it possible to create some new community that we could start a new society that would have very different rules and be able to govern itself? this is still far in the future, but it has a lot of people
>> you have been portrayed on the hbo show "silicon valley" and this island has been portrayed on the show. have you watched it? >> they would dispute they were portraying me. >> he is called peter gregory and he invested in an island. >> i think the character gives a compelling portrayal of someone who is passionate about the future, determined to make things happen.
people are driven, slightly crazy. i think it is a positive show. >> can you really grow meat and leather in labs? >> yes, i think the problem is if somebody will actually eat it. >> what you think about failure? >> this idea that failure is ok is a destructive means. i think that failure is always a problem. when a company fails, it is a tragedy. it is often damaging for the people who go through it. >> what is your biggest failure? >> there are some things that work better than others. but, on the whole, i have always been resilient. >> i know you have thought a lot about the extension of human life. you think that you may live until 120. >> i certainly hope to, yes. >> what are you doing differently? are you taking immortality pills?
>> i think on the nutrition side, there are some very basic things that can be done. you should not eat sugar. that is the one nutritional rule. >> do you not eat sugar? >> i still eat some, but not as much as i used to. >> what do you eat more of? >> i do the paleo diet. that does not get you to 120. you need new technology and innovation for us to have longer and healthier lives. >> like what? >> cures for cancer, alzheimer's, find ways to restore organs when they are falling apart. the main, drastic thing i am doing is i am on hgh, human growth hormone, on a daily basis. >> what is the benefit of that?
>> it helps maintain muscle mass, so you are much less likely to get bone injuries, arthritis, stuff like that. there is always a worry that it increases your cancer risk. i am hopeful we will get cancer cured in the next decade. the other big nutrition thing that is happening is all of the stuff on the bio level, where you have as many bacteria inside of you as cells. hopefully we can reset your bacterial ecosystem. you can look at people who are super healthy, you can figure out what ecosystem they have and replace yours with theirs. >> peter thiel, thank you so much for joining us today on "studio 1.0," it was great having you. ♪ >> he made his name as a top
tech analyst on wall street, leading coverage of the amazon ipo. then, bill gurley made his way to the promised land of silicon valley, launching a venture capitalist firm, joining benchmark capital in 1999. almost right away, the bubble burst. bill gurley rode the market up and down, along the way making his early bets on some of the best names -- twitter, uber, snapchat, instagram. joining me today on "studio